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'The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830-1930' on view at the Americas Society
Augusto Cesar de Malta Campos (Brazilian, 1864–1957).P. Mal [Praça Marechal] Floriano, Rio-Brasil (Marechal Floriano Square, Rio de Janeiro), 1927 , gelatin silver print, 7 x 9 1/4 in. Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute (92.R.14)

NEW YORK, NY.- Americas Society is presenting The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830-1930, an exhibition that explores the impact that a century of accelerated urbanization as well as political and social transformations had on the architectural landscapes of six Latin American capitals: Buenos Aires, Havana, Lima, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, and Santiago de Chile. Curated by Idurre Alonso and Maristella Casciato, The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830-1930 is on view at the Society’s Art Gallery from March 22 through June 30, 2018. The exhibition features rare maps, engravings, drawings, photographs, books, and videos that range from Hernán Cortés’ map of Tenochtitlán (1524) to Le Corbusier’s sketches made during his visit to Buenos Aires (1929).

Previously on view at The Getty Research Institute (GRI) in Los Angeles, as part of the Getty Foundation’s region-wide initiative on Latin American and Latino art Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830-1930 draws on the GRI’s collections to document how, over the course of one century, Latin American cities experienced rapid growth and sociopolitical turmoil that resulted in crucial modifications to city scale and architectural landscapes, creating the prime conditions for the emergence of the metropolis.

“The juncture that followed the processes of independence from Mexico to Argentina triggered a myriad of local initiatives that led to the re-organization of the cities from the newly freed republics to the nation-states before the Second World War,” explained Americas Society Visual Arts Director and Chief Curator Gabriela Rangel. “Metropolis is an effort that reveals the importance of archival research within a period that have been mostly overseen in the U.S. scholarship on Latin America. After Americas Society’s exploration of the emergence of midcentury modern design through our 2015 exhibition MODERNO: Design for Living in Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela 1940-1978, we aim to present a previous step in the configuration of modern impulses and projects for the urban environment in small cities and big capitals.”

“During the almost four centuries of colonial rule, town planning was a key tool to build cities that had to be commercially functional and militarily strategic,” commented exhibition curator and The Getty Research Institute’s Associate Curator of Latin American Collections Idurre Alonso. “This exhibition traces the changes of six major capitals as independence, industrialization, and exchange of ideas altered their built environments and eventually transformed them into monumental, modern metropolises.”

Following independence, Latin Americans had an urgent desire to break with the colonial past. This desire was expressed through architecture and urban planning, among other ways. Over a time of intense growth and social and demographic changes, cities began to reshape themselves, removing or diminishing the prominence of colonial symbols through the construction of civic buildings that emphasized the new identities of independent nations. “Latin American metropolises were dramatically reconfigured, becoming experimental laboratories where scientific planning mingled with the natural environment to create forwardlooking approaches to city design,” said Maristella Casciato, exhibition curator and Senior Curator of Architecture at The Getty Research Institute.

By the later part of the nineteenth century significant changes, including massive migration to cities and the beginning of local industrialization, resulted in new urban development. In order to accommodate the lifestyle of the new bourgeoisie, capitals were lavishly embellished with grand avenues. In major cities, such as Buenos Aires, Mexico City, and Rio de Janeiro, a fascination with the Parisian grands travaux (great works) of the second French empire resulted in the adoption of European planning models. Radial networks of avenues, as well as new parkways, public parks, and botanical gardens transformed the cities. However, the legacy of the colonial city was still visible. For example, the civic plaza remained the cultural center of many cities, as it had in the colonial era.

In the 1910s, grand celebrations across Latin America marked one hundred years of independence. Coinciding with the end of World War I and a significant increase in immigration from Europe, these commemorations sparked a reconsideration of national identity. Architects, planners, and politicians initiated a return to local architectural traditions, eschewing nineteenth-century European models in favor of pre-Columbian and colonial revivals.

In the following decades a younger generation of designers started instilling their projects with utopian ideas of modernity, which implied social transformations and urban reconfigurations. They conceived the metropolis as the city for all, with standardized housing and a new functional order. The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830–1930 creates a rich visual narrative with the aim of providing an understanding of how this transformative period allowed for the emergence of a modernist architectural language.

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